Little Senegal presents disconnect between related cultures

The Alan Lutkus International Film Series presented its first screening of the semester with Little Senegal on Thursday Feb. 28 in Newton 204. The film series challenges Geneseo students to explore different cultures through the accounts and environments of foreign characters.

Instead of taking the audience to an entirely unfamiliar environment, the film grounds itself in Harlem's Le Petit Senegal - a small neighborhood in New York City. Emphasizing the importance of family, the film revolves around a man from the Republic of Senegal, Alloune, who travels to America to track down relatives who descended from a shared enslaved past.

Little Senegal goes beyond a journey of a man looking for his relatives and crosses over to a story of budding romance, family hardships and the general struggles of life. The film takes audiences on an emotional rollercoaster as they witness the raw disconnect between African and African-American families and the problems that arise within those separate households.

Before introducing the film, assistant professor of French Kodjo Adabra shared a short anecdote about an African-American man who approached him and demanded an apology from Adabra for selling his ancestors as slaves. With this story, Adabra wanted to stress the misunderstanding between African immigrants and African-Americans - a recurring issue throughout the film. He ended the tale with his two cents, saying, “You are not responsible for your ancestor's actions.”

“[Alloune] becomes the bridge between the African-Americans and African immigrants.” Adabra added. As different as they claim themselves to be from one another, the two groups face the same problems in a money-dominated society.

The film, shrouded in an air of melancholy, reveals layers of issues fixated on same-race discrimination, the meaning of family, tradition and gender roles and the conventions of love. As beautiful as the genuine interactions of characters throughout the film are, Little Senegal leaves the audience with a bittersweet aftertaste - a longing for justice and a happy end. It also makes its audience realize that Alloune leaves with more questions than he had originally brought along with him.

Adabra said he chose this specific screening because it nicely articulates the struggle between two groups of people who are separated only by actions of the past. In addition to an interest in the culture, Adabra also leads a four-week summer study abroad program in Senegal where students are immersed into the West African culture, broadening their cultural horizons.